Another Other review: Stripped-back, sensuous adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona
Published: February 19, 2016 - 8:13PM
Chamber Made Opera, Meat Market
Until February 21
It has been 50 years since the release of Persona, Ingmar Bergman’s movie about a famous actress who decides to stop speaking and the nurse who cares for her, about the breakdown and melding of identity, the conflict between inner and outer self and how personality is always a performance.
In recent years we have seen Fraught Outfit’s lauded staging of the screenplay and now comes Chamber Made Opera’s multimedia performance piece, which excises almost all the words, narrative and characters, leaving behind an absorbing, thoughtful, and crisply performed fantasia on the film’s aural and visual textures. Even if the piece’s aesthetic is one of interruption and repetition and disjunction, the structure of the film is still discernible, but the sensuousness of the experience is what is most valuable.
The performers – Natasha Anderson, Sabina Maselli, Anthony Pateras and Erkki Veltheim – sit between two banks of seats, separated from the audience by semi-transparent screens: there are also screens behind the seats and to one side. On the screens, superimposed and reversed, pass images of rocky landscapes, intertwined hands, close-ups of lips: the iconic double portraits of Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann are recreated, the film’s invocation of atrocity – the self-immolating monk – reproduced directly and also updated with the famous falling man of 9/11.
Bergman exposed the apparatus, showing us the camera, the film itself catching on fire, the arc lights in the projector; and conspicuous on stage is a projector-like something from a 1970s school. The noise it makes forms part of a soundscape that elsewhere riffs off the film’s jagged music and island setting: glassy percussive sounds, a slashing violin, dripping and bubbling water, bells and a fog horn.
Language barely enters into it: nurse Alma’s graphic sex monologue, about a beach orgy with a couple of teenage boys, becomes an even more explicit, Tsiolkas-like episode from contemporary suburban life; and in conclusion a performer reads the speech made by the psychiatrist at the end of the movie: “One must be infantile to be an artist in our age.” If true, Another Other disguises it very well.